The Complexity Pattern from PatternDynamics(TM)


Ideas thus made up of several simple ones put together, I call Complex; such as are Beauty, Gratitude, a Man, an Army, the Universe.
– John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (quoted by Melanie Mitchell in Complexity: A Guided Tour)

“Complexity.” It is not just a descriptive word, it is a concept and a discipline – a new way of looking at the world, coming out of the disciplines of systems theory, chaos theory, and quantum theory.

We must, certainly, reintegrate humans with nature and we must be able to distinguish humans from nature, thereby not reducing humans to nature. We must, consequently, at the same time, develop a theory, a logic, and an epistemology of complexity that will be appropriate to the knowledge of human beings. We are looking for the unification of science and a theory addressing the very high degree of human complexity. It is a principle with deep roots whose developments are increasingly diversifying and branching out more and more the higher we go. I situate myself, therefore, well outside the two antagonistic clans: one that destroys difference by reducing it to a simple unity, the other that obscures unity by only seeing differences. I see myself well outside both, but I am attempting to integrate the two truths. In other words, I am attempting to go beyond the either/or alternative.
– Edgar Morin, On Complexity


Complexity: It’s Not That Simple, by Dave Pollard

Complexity and Philosophy by Francis Heylighen, Paul Cilliers, and Carlos Gershenson

Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism by T. Collins Logan

A Complex Predicament, Part 1: The Energy Predicament, by Dave Pollard
A Complex Predicament, Part 2: The Economic Predicament, by Dave Pollard

From the Concept of System to the Paradigm of Complexity by Edgar Morin (translated by Sean M. Kelly)

An Interview with Edgar Morin on the State of the World, by Anne Rapin, 1997

Complex Thought: An Overview of Edgar Morin’s Intellectual Journey, by Alfonso Montouri

Complexity and Integral Theory (Reflections on Complexity: Reflections from the North and South), by Russ Volckmann, Integral Leadership Review

Transpersonal Psychology and the Paradigm of Complexity by Sean M. Kelley

PatternDynamics: Following the Way Nature Organizes Itself to Deal with Complexity – right here on Integral Permaculture

The key to complexity is systems thinking, and the key to systems thinking is patterns. The key to patterns is using them as a language

– Tim Winton, PatternDynamics

While the flows through an ecosystem help to define its functionality, it is the structures of complexity that defines its capacity, its resiliences and its productivity in the production of Life in the realization of the ‘living’.

– Will Varey, Where is the Ecology of Thought?

Homeland Earth: A Manifesto for the New Millenium, by Edgar Morin
On Complexity, by Edgar Morin
Complexity: A Guided Tour, by Melanie Mitchell
Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future, by Edgar Morin (free pdf download from Unesco; see also video below)


Science has explored the microcosmos and the macrocosmos; we have a good sense of the lay of the land. The great unexplored frontier is complexity
– Heinz Pagels, The Dreams of Reason (quoted by Melanie Mitchell)

Ecologist Eric Berlow doesn’t feel overwhelmed when faced with complex systems. He knows that more information can lead to a better, simpler solution. Illustrating the tips and tricks for breaking down big issues, he distills an overwhelming infographic on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to a few elementary points.

2 comments on “Complexity

  1. Dwig says:

    Here’s a book I’d add to the list: Thinking in Systems, by Donna Meadows (a member of the Club of Rome team that produced “Limits to Growth”). It’s an excellent primer on System Dynamics.

    • davidm58 says:

      Thanks Dwig! I concur – an excellent primer indeed. I do make a bit of distinction between systems thinking and complexity thinking, though there is much overlap – the boundary is fuzzy and …complex. Interesting discussion here – one expression of a perceived difference. I see them as emphasizing different aspects of System Dynamics.

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